This week, about a thousand women and a few men protested outside the Virginia State Capitol against several bills which will soon be state law, attacking the constitutional right to abortion confirmed in the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade. On February 22 the Virginia Legislature delayed a final vote on the bill, which would require women in the eastern US state to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound prior to an abortion.
Critics say the proposed, intrusive Virginia procedure — involving an electronic probe inserted deep into the vagina — amounts to state-sanctioned rape, as neither a woman nor her doctor would be able to opt out of it.
Abortion is a constitutional right, encompassed in the”right to privacy” protected under the Due process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Male-dominated and dominating government has been attempting to crush this right ever since Roe, using the same tactics that were previously used by state governments to keep Black people from voting after their constitutional right to do so was established. The most well-known of those punitive laws were the literacy and property requirements placed on citizens. The state governments had a raft of non-discriminatory reasons why those new laws were suddenly needed. But the reasons were pretexts, as many court cases since have since established. The real reason was to prevent Black people from exercising their rights, as is widely acknowledged now.
The right to an abortion is specifically a woman’s right, and it is necessary and critical to women’s survival. Abortion, along with woman-controlled contraception, is the ultimate threat to male domination. As Riane Eisler said regarding the population explosion in her book The Chalice and the Blade, “The traditional means of stemming population growth have been disease, hunger, and war. Giving top priority to reproductive freedom and equality for women is the only other way to halt the population explosion. But to give these “women’s issues” top priority would mean the end of the present system. It would mean a transformation from a dominator to a partnership society. And to the androcratic mind – the mind of many of our world’s present leaders – this is not a possibility…the first policy priority in a male-dominated system has to be the preservation of male dominance. Hence, policies that would weaken male dominance – and most policies that offer any hope for the human future will – cannot be implemented.”
Just like the anti-voting laws passed to prevent Black voting, the reasons given for the trans-vaginal ultrasound requirement are pretexts. There is no medical need for such a procedure – the “need” is entirely political. It is said that women requesting abortions will receive information that will assist them in giving informed consent for the abortion – but what additional information does this procedure provide? The woman knows that she is pregnant, that she is a certain number of weeks along, and that the fetus is not viable outside the womb. What will the ultrasound tell her?
It will tell her nothing she doesn’t already know. Information is not the reason for use of this medical procedure for no medical reason. There is no study stating that use of such a procedure cause women to change their requests for abortions.
The real reason, of course, is that women are to be threatened with rape if they attempt to exercise a constitutional right.
This is what men and patriarchal institutions do to women, long after we have “won” our legal rights from them. Reformists, beware?
In almost all U.S. jurisdictions, the felony of “rape with a foreign object” is defined something like the California law: it is penetration of the vagina or anus with anything other than a penis, without consent, including penetration by hands and fingers as well as other body parts or objects.
Passing a law which requires state-sanctioned and enforced rape does not mean a woman can be said to have given her consent. In fact, under the typical California law, legal consent precludes “…the use of force, fear, threat, coercion…or abuse of authority.” In legal fact, the Virginia bill is an abuse of authority of the highest order. It requires physicians to commit a serious felony, and violates a federal constitutional right.
Such state-sanctioned serious crimes against women has occurred recently in another part of the world, in Egypt last year during the overthrow of the Mubarak regime. During the Tahrir Square protests, many women who joined the protests were arrested by Egyptian police and given “virginity tests”. The tests involved an inspection of a protester’s hymen, on the assumption that the hymen could only be torn as a result of sexual intercourse. The tests were performed under brutal and degrading circumstances.
Virginity testing is considered a violation of human rights by Amnesty International. Women who “failed” the tests were told they might be arrested for prostitution, which would ruin their lives.
The analogy is perfect: women are to be vaginally penetrated to shame, hurt, and intimidate them, and to prevent them from exercising their constitutional rights. Essentially, both groups are raped with official sanction.
The outraged women of Egypt went out and protested loudly about this. The women of Virginia stood mute on Monday. The obvious reason they stood mute is because they were frightened they would be beaten or arrested if they dared to open their mouths. Indeed, American women appear to be more frightened to dissent than the Egyptians are frightened of their brutal government. This is outrageous, and unacceptable, and indicates that American women are being brutalized and oppressed, even as everyone who matters waxes poetic about how American citizens in general are free, and American women, in particular, are lucky to have been born American. Okay, but lucky compared to whom? And, are we very sure about that?
Another analogy to the bill that is immediately obvious: an “alien probe” is to be inserted and moved around in a woman’s body against her will by hands in rubber gloves in a clinical setting. It’s a B-grade sick science-fiction sex fantasy dreamed up by men, and the women of Virginia need to stop being silent and tell the legislators to climb back into their saucers and get out while they still have jobs.